If you are a designer and you are unaware of the know-how of Additive manufacturing ( 3d Printing ), you might be missing out something big here.
With all the advancement in 3d printing, one thing is a given – this technology is meant for designers and creative minded people.
For the past couple of decades, major use of 3d printing was limited to only prototyping, which happens to be a key process for every designer as prototyping helps them validate their design. But things are changing, now. With the advancement in technology, designers have now realized that, the application of 3D Printing has evolved well beyond prototyping to end-use products/applications. Thereby, designers are now compelled to think beyond the traditional boundaries of what can, and what cannot be manufactured. This in-turn has radically changed the whole product development approach.
But to take full advantage of the unique capabilities of Additive Manufacturing (AM) processes, new systems and standards are needed. A typical Design for Additive Manufacturing method includes topology optimisation, design for multi-scale structures (lattice or cellular structures), on-demand manufacturing, mass customisation and part consolidation. Today, we will discuss these five points in brief which will enable us to draw a conclusion as to why Designers need to adopt 3D printing sooner rather than later.
- Topology optimization: For years, our simulation softwares would show us the finite element analysis results, of a certain component under consideration, by depicting the safe and critical zones. And then we as a user would have to redesign/modify the component based on our experience and expertise, to make the component safe to use for the given application. This entire approach is highly experience driven and primitive. But today with the advent of Topological optimization softwares like SolidThinking Inspire, the topology can be optimised by simply running an algorithm in the background which removes material from the “safe” regions and adds extra layers of material to the critical areas, thereby strengthening them and making them safe. AN APPROACH WHERE COMPUTER TELLS YOU THE RIGHT DESIGN AND YOU SIMPLY CHANGE IT AS PER YOUR NEED. This has made us rethink even the simple designs of everyday objects – Does the chair really need 4 legs to stand? etc.
- Design of multi-scale structures (Generative Design): With AM, complexity is free. Designers can now come up with complex, unconventional and innovative designs without really worrying about its manufacturability and performance. They are now free to literally think outside the box! Generative and Parametric design will become an integral part of the Design thinking, and Product development approach where smart algorithms will suggest right design decisions based on your given constraints. Autodesk’s Dreamcatcher project is now getting lot of attention. Mr. Carl Bass, CEO, Autodesk has shared one such fascinating example of generative design experiment to make a swing arm of a bike. The computer generated results were absolutely unbelievable.
- On-demand manufacturing: 3D printing is moving beyond prototyping parts to performance products. Companies are exploring new 3D printing materials under the Industrial 4.0 initiative that can be directly subjected to real time environment and once this is achieved, it will reduce the need of large inventory of components, and it may even eliminate he requirement to keep and inventory, altogether. The parts can be quickly manufactured using AM at a location where it is needed. The entire supply chain will disrupt, and logistics will be least of the concern. Amazon has already filed a patent to leverage 3D printing on demand.
- Mass customization – 3D Printing connects the Designer directly to the end-consumer. Every conventional design process starts with a primary and secondary market research that involves understanding consumer needs, pain points, likes and dislikes. After collecting all the data points, the results are then generalised for a target demography. With advancement in 3D printing, designers can now create a product specific to a consumer demand. If not mass manufacturing, they have the flexibility to produce products in small batches. Each batch can be more progressed and iterated based on the customer’s feedback and market response. This will help in bridging the gap between what a consumer demands and what a designer delivers. Finally we can shift our focus from “driving people to accept our products” to “making products that people actually desire”.
- Part consolidation: AM provides the flexibility of integrating the smaller components together to make one single product. Today, a ball bearing is an assembly of six different components. With AM it will be just one single part manufactured in one operational cycle. Such application will create huge monetary savings by completely avoiding assembly line setups.